Tough road to victory

BY COLLEEN SHELDON, VOLUNTEER JOURNALIST

Ethan Berends was elated following his victory at the Gravel and Tar Classic held in Palmerston North on Saturday.

In sweltering heat, Berends put his win of the 131.5km race down to getting no punctures, having a strong team behind him and understanding the gravel better.

“The whole team did well. They put me in a good position for the whole race and I was able to pull it off in the end,” he said.

“It’s a pretty hard race. I was confident on the gravel having done a lot of gravel since Gravel and Tar last year, knowing this gravel is loose stuff.”

It was a great win for the team, Berends said, and would hopefully help them get into races in Europe and America.

Sprinting to the finish with Berends was New Zealander Michael Torckler for Blindz Direct, with Hayden McCormick for the New Zealand National Team about 20 seconds behind.

Eleven teams competed in the UCI 1.2 race, described as the toughest race in Oceania, where 26 riders out of 53 starters crossed the finish line.

Last year’s winner Robert Stannard, riding for Bike Manawatu-Cyclista, placed ninth in the race, nearly six minutes behind the race winner, having punctured at the top of the first climb.

“It was a pretty key part of the race and took a little bit of time to get a spare wheel. I spent the rest of the race chasing.”

Race director Mattjis van Wagtendonk said the high calibre field made the race exciting and overall the race ran well.

“It was a good race, we had no roading issues and I think the international commissaires were happy with the way it was run,” he said.

Last September, cycling’s international body, Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) accredited the Gravel and Tar Classic a level 1.2 status and the presence of commissaires to scrutinise the race was part of the process.

Lead commissaire Peter Tomlinson said of the UCI race, “it puts a bridge between National club racing where people get a change to see these riders and in a couple of years those riders are on the world stage”.

Individual results: 1. Ethan Berends (Mobius BridgeLane) 2. Michael Torckler (Blindz Direct) 3. Hayden McCormick (New Zealand National Team)

Team results: 1. New Zealand National Team 2. Mobius BridgeLane 3. Blindz Direct 

Steve Stannard